Acting Governor Richard J. Codey signed bill S-2065/A-3781 into law on Tuesday, raising New Jersey's hourly minimum wage to $7.15 over the next two years. The bill also creates a permanent New Jersey Minimum Wage Advisory Commission to annually evaluate the state's minimum wage. "For too many of our citizens, what a family earns is insufficient to keep pace with the high cost of living," said Codey. "It is wrong that a person who works full-time to provide for their family should have to live below the poverty level. This shouldn't happen anywhere in America, and it shouldn't happen here in New Jersey." New Jersey was once a minimum wage leader when the state raised the level to $5.05 in 1992. In 1999, it was raised to $5.15 to comply with the federal rate. However since that time, inflation and the state's high cost of living have reduced the purchasing power of the minimum wage, and made it increasing difficult for low wage earners to provide even the most basic necessities for their families. The federal poverty guideline for a family of four is $18,850. At $5.15 an hour, a minimum wage worker who works full-time earns about $10,300 a year or roughly $8,500 short of the poverty line. Under the bill, New Jersey's minimum wage will increase twice over the next two years. First, it will go to $6.15 per hour on October 1, 2005, and then $7.15 per hour on October 1, 2006. This will directly benefit over 200,000 workers. "Raising the minimum wage has been long overdue," said Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development Thomas D. Carver. "Thanks to the leadership of Acting Governor Codey and the legislature, New Jersey's working families can now earn a decent wage."